Winter Forest Herbal Medicine Remedies

Herbal medicine is available for harvest throughout the year, even here in Nova Scotia. Pine and spruce are abundant. In this video you’ll learn some ways to identify them and use them to keep you healthy in winter.

Transcript:

I’m here in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and as you can probably see it’s winter here. It’s January. This park has edible and medicinal plants available to us year round, and in the winter we’re looking for the evergreens, some of which can be found at our feet, and we have many evergreen trees. Today we’re going to learn about pine and spruce, both abundant trees here in Nova Scotia.

These trees share many compounds in common, including acids, resins, essential oils, and anti-inflammatory compounds, so they have similar benefits to us. So I’ll start with the pine.

White Pine

This is white pine, and typically here in Nova Scotia, white pine grow to be quite tall and majestic. This is a young one, and you’ll know it’s a white pine because at the stem, they’ll have 5 long needles growing together from a single point. So that’s how you know the white pine from some of the other pine here. And I mentioned acids – ascorbic acid – pine is very high in ascorbic acid, which is Vitamin C. You can extract this by steeping it in apple cider vinegar for a few weeks, and it’ll not only extract the Vitamin C, but many other minerals and medicinal compounds.

Pine is one of my favourites for the urinary system. It’s a diuretic so it increases flow of urine, and will be helpful in cases of uric acid buildup, gout, and bladder infection. It has anti-infective properties for the bladder, also for the respiratory system and the sinuses.

Spruce

Much like its neighbour over here. So next to it we have a small spruce tree, another evergreen common in Nova Scotia. This tree, as you can see, the needles are much smaller, and they are rollable in the fingers, so you can detect the squarish, rollable quality of spruce. And spruce is probably my favourite winter remedy for the sinuses, so it’s very good to clear sinus congestion and inflammation whether that’s from a cold or flu, from allergies, or from a simple sinus infection.

Herbal Medicine Steam

And a herbal steam is a great way to make use of it for that purpose. You simply simmer the spruce tips in some water, put a towel over the head and inhale those fumes deep into the sinuses and also into the lungs if you have a lower respiratory infection. Within minutes you’ll have relief and breathe much better.

Evergreen Herbal Tea & Herbal Bath

Both of these would make a good tea, herbal tea for the respiratory system, and also a bath. During the winter when we’re chilly to the bone, and maybe our spirits are a little low. Both of these have an aroma that’s really uplifting to the senses, and awakening, just to help lift us out of the winter blues. And for that you’d make a very strong — about a litre and a half of tea, using a couple handfuls of each, simmered in the water for about 15 minutes and add it to the bath.

And for making a cup of tea for internal use, you just need a little bit, like one small length of either of the stems in a single cup of tea, simmered for about 10 minutes will do it, and then a half to one cup of tea a day is sufficient. They’re both quite very strong.

So while you’re out enjoying your winter walks, be on the lookout for these, take a few along the way, and enjoy them at home.

Be well. Thank you.

Herbs to Keep You Warm in Winter

Herbs of Fire

Naturally, when it is cold we effort to keep warm.  Some tolerate the cold better than others, just like some thrive in the summer heat while others wilt – it depends on ones constitution.

As a Nova Scotia resident you likely have well established rituals and habits for keeping warm during our cold winter season, like staying indoors more, cooked foods, wool, whisky, and fires.  My best winter survival techniques are soups, teas, and baths, and they all involve herbs.

If you want to warm up quickly, eat some horseradish.  It is traditionally eaten with meat and fatty foods to improve their digestion.  It also goes well with eggs, beans, fish, and sushi.  Horseradish has been used as a medicine for centuries.  It is a powerful circulatory stimulant.  It can be used internally and topically for arthritis, gout, and inflammation.  It is one the most effective remedies for clearing lung and sinus congestion.  Eat ½ tsp. 2-3 times daily to clear up a persistent congestive cold.

Ginger is always in my winter teapot, either fresh or dried.  In addition to being a good cold and flu remedy, it is a digestive stimulant, anti-inflammatory and a remedy for nausea.  It makes a great poultice for congestive colds.  To 2 cups boiled water add 1 tsp. ginger powder. Soak a cloth in the liquid, wring it out then drape it across the chest, covering up with blankets to keep warm.  Repeat several times on the front and back.  Try it in a foot bath – in a basin full of hot water add 1 tsp. ginger powder, soak for 15-20 minutes to take the chill off.

When I need to thaw out after being out in the cold, nothing feels better than a hot soak. With the addition of herbs, an ordinary bath can become fragrant and therapeutic.  Herbs have been used as part of bathing rituals for centuries. In addition to immersion, water was sprinkled, splashed, poured and sweated to heighten the spiritually cleansing aspect of bathing.

“A daily spiritual bath is an easy way to start paying attention to your spirit and soul as well as your body.” ~ Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. and Herbalist

A herbal bath can ease the stresses of daily life, bringing a peaceful state of mind. If you don’t have a full tub, a hand or foot bath will work. I recommend herbal baths for people who have anxiety and insomnia.  To prepare a healing bath you simply make a super strong tea and add it to the bath.  In 3 lt boiled water, steep 1 cup of your chosen herb (s), covered, for 20 minutes.  Strain the liquid and add to your bath water.

For relaxation: lavender, hops, hibiscus, lemon balm, rose, and chamomile

For skin irritations such as eczema or rashes:  calendula, lavender, yarrow, and chamomile

For sore joints and muscles:  lavender, chamomile, wintergreen, rosemary

For colds:  peppermint, elderflowers, thyme, pine needles

A hot bowl of soup is comfort food at its best.  Hot soup can help to banish sickness and increase vitality.  Herbs are great when making stock – many are mineral rich and will enhance the nutrition of your soup – nettle, burdock root and dandelion roots and leaves are good choices.  Astragulus root is a powerful immune tonic and I add it to all of my winter soup stocks to prevent colds and flu.  Shiitake mushrooms are equally valuable for strengthening the immune system – they go in the pot too.  For extra fiery potency add ginger or chili powders to intensify the medicinal value of your soup.

Speaking of fire – don’t forget to get a daily dose of sunshine.  Brave the cold and get outside on your lunch break or for an afternoon walk to enjoy the beautiful and shapely trees that line our city streets.  We need as much sun exposure as we can get to chase away the winter blues.

Keep warm!